U.S. boosted by Flowers power

OKLAHOMA CITY - Tairia Flowers homered, Crystl Bustos added a two-run double and Cat Osterman was all but unhittable Monday night as the United States beat Japan 3-0 in the World Cup of Softball championship game.

Flowers drove Hiroko Sakai's first pitch of the second inning easily beyond the center-field fence, giving Osterman all the offense she needed to guide the U.S. to its 22nd straight victory and second consecutive World Cup title.

Bustos' double extended the lead in the fifth inning, but only after she fought back from an 0-2 count to push it full. Her hard roller bounded all the way to the left-field fence, allowing Natasha Watley and Jessica Mendoza to score.

Japan, the Americans' top challenger in international softball, hit only two balls out of the infield and managed just three hits against Osterman, the left-hander who played at Texas and threw 14 2/3 shutout innings at the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Osterman (2-0) struck out 13, including 10 of the first 13 batters she faced. In the second, Emi Naito reached on a squib shot that spun its way about halfway to the pitching circle, but was called out when she was hit by Rie Sato's grounder.

Osterman then struck out the next seven batters before Naito grounded out to shortstop for the first out of the fifth inning. One out later, Megu Hirose lined a single to center field - the first hit to reach the grass.

The Americans didn't have much success early against Sakai (2-1), who threw four shutout innings against the U.S. in a Canada Cup game earlier this month.

Flowers, the MVP of the Canada Cup after she hit .650 in that tournament, got the offense going. The first baseman from UCLA paced the American offense at the World Cup, going 6-for-13 and leading the tournament with three home runs and 12 RBIs.


n JUDGE LAYS GROUND RULES IN WILLIAMS RETRIAL: The judge presiding over Jayson Williams' retrial for the shooting of a hired driver in 2002 ruled Monday that portions of a 911 call made by Williams' brother on the night of the shooting will be excluded from the trial.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman was a victory for Williams' defense team, which had sought to have some statements made on the tape by Victor Williams kept out. In April, the state Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors could introduce evidence at the retrial that Williams tried to cover up the shotgun slaying of hired driver Costas Christofi.

Williams, 39, attended the hearing, arriving about 30 minutes late. He was silent for most of the day, rising once to answer a question from Coleman while attorneys discussed jury selection issues.


n PATRIOTS, SAMUEL TALKS AT STALEMATE : Cornerback Asante Samuel and the New England Patriots failed to agree on a multiyear contract Monday, setting the stage for a possible holdout.

Samuel, coming off the best of his four seasons, can only play for the $7.79 million tender offer the Patriots made when they designated him as their franchise player. He skipped the team's mandatory minicamp last month and has said he intends to hold out until the 10th week of the regular season.

n KANSAS CITY'S ALLEN SUSPENDED, FINED: Kansas City defensive end Jared Allen has been suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the 2007 season and fined an additional game check following two DUI arrests

Allen told the Kansas City Star last April that he had been suspended for four games. At that time, the NFL declined comment because the case was under appeal. The league announced the two-game suspension on Monday.

n PANTHERS SIGN THIRD PICK: The Carolina Panthers signed third-round pick Charles Johnson on Monday.

Johnson, a defensive end from Georgia, is the third of eight draft picks to come to terms, joining fourth-round selection Ryne Robinson and fifth-round choice Dante Rosario.

The 6-foot-2, 270-pound Johnson had 73 tackles and 14.5 sacks in three years at Georgia. Johnson had 9.5 sacks last season and was a second-team all-Southeastern Conference pick.

College football

n MINNESOTA'S JONES CHARGED WITH SEXUAL ASSAULT: Minnesota cornerback Dominic Jones was charged Monday with third-degree criminal sexual conduct after investigators said they found cell phone video that showed him in a sex act with a woman who was "physically helpless."

Three other Gophers remain suspects in the case, which began in April after an 18-year-old woman said she had been raped at an apartment complex near campus.

"The charges represent a significant next step in this case," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. "The charge is a serious one."

Defensive end Alex Daniels, cornerback Keith Massey and running back E.J. Jones all were arrested and questioned in April. They have not been charged, but have been suspended ever since by coach Tim Brewster.


n PENGUINS EXTEND THERRIEN'S CONTRACT: The Pittsburgh Penguins gave coach Michel Therrien a one-year contract extension through the 2008-09 season after guiding the team to the playoffs for the first time in six years.

The Penguins finished second in the Atlantic Division, two points behind the New Jersey Devils.